The RL Model

Resilient Leadership in Brief

Resilient Leadership offers a fresh, insightful, and innovative understanding of how to exercise leadership in a way that is powerfully transformative.

Grounded in the scientific understanding of group functioning, the Resilient Leadership model helps leaders understand how the “emotional system” of their organization — the unconscious, instinctual aspects of human functioning – often dictates, to a great extent, how the organization functions on the rational level. By learning to understand and recognize the emotional system at play within a leader’s environment, s/he is able to calm office anxiety, clear confusion, and spur a productive, engaged workforce.

Resilient Leadership Model

The Resilient Leadership model stands apart from much of contemporary literature in the field of leadership training. Some of what is suggested may strike you as counterintuitive, or even an outright contradiction of traditional understandings you hold about what it is that makes a leader more effective. So much the better! If there are fresh, new ideas with which you find yourself wrestling, then you probably have grasped intuitively just how radical an approach to leadership it truly is.

The Resilient Leadership model suggests that a leader can navigate the complexities of leadership more expertly if he or she understands something about the “hidden chemistry” of organizational families. Those hidden forces—the “chemistry” that makes families and organizations function as they do—are what we call “emotional process.” Emotional process refers to the instinctual, automatic functioning we share in common with many other species, as well as the affective energies—almost always beneath our conscious awareness—that we generally refer to as emotions or feelings.

The Resilient Leadership model emphasizes that how a leader is present to the emotional system he/she is a part of is far more important than the leader’s personality, any management techniques he or she may employ, or how well s/he functions as a role model to be imitated by others. Rather, it is the nature of the leader’s presence—his or her calm assertion of self or anxious inability to take a stand—that most decisively affects the emotional field of which s/he is a part. Remarkably, the way a leader is present to the organization has an impact on everyone in the system, even when they have no immediate contact with the leader. This is because how a leader is present is highly contagious, and the consequences of that presence spread throughout the organization’s emotional system as quickly as a wildfire spreads through dry grass. One need not be in proximate contact with the executive suite to experience the powerful influence that radiates from the office of the CEO.

Bowen Theory

The source of the Resilient Leadership model lies in the pioneering research of Dr. Murray Bowen (1913-1990), a classically trained Freudian psychiatrist who, beginning in the 1950’s and for forty years thereafter, was one of the founders of a new therapeutic approach called Family Systems Theory. Bowen’s work, however, went beyond the study of how families operate as emotional systems. His interest in evolutionary biology eventually led him to elaborate a comprehensive framework (called Bowen Systems Theory) for understanding how the forces of emotional process operate in all life forms. Bowen believed that we can come to a deeper understanding of human functioning by focusing on what we share in common with the lower life forms that preceded us on the evolutionary ladder. There are primal forces that are still present in all of us, and they are powerful drivers that shape how we enter into and manage ourselves in every network of relationships we are part of, from our family system through every other organization, regardless of its scale or complexity.

The Resilient Leadership Training Program is an adaptation and application of Bowen Theory to the workplace. It encourages aspiring and veteran leaders alike to “watch for emotional process” because doing so will reveal the unseen, instinctual forces that drive every one of their relationship networks. Knowing how to watch for emotional process allows a leader to see things that others miss and affords an invaluable perspective that can pay dividends in unsuspected but significant ways. For more information about Bowen Theory click here.

A Resilient Leader

The developers of the Resilient Leadership model define a Resilient  Leader as follows: Resilient Leaders:

  • Lead with calm, clarity and conviction in the midst of anxiety provoked by increasing complexity and accelerating change.
  • Such individuals lead from strength, know how to care for themselves emotionally and physically, and can sustain their leadership efforts over time.

Becoming a resilient leader is a lifelong task, a goal towards which we must strive constantly, rather than a final destination at which we will someday arrive. The skills required to be a resilient leader operate on a continuum of functioning: from a quite modest level—where one’s capacity is in the early stages of development—to the highest level—where we observe those exceptional people we sometimes call “naturally gifted leaders.” Those are the rare individuals who embody to an extraordinary degree remarkable qualities of leadership to which most of us simply aspire. But the truth is that such “naturally gifted leaders” did not fall from heaven fully skilled, mature, polished and competent in every aspect of leadership. Neither is there an ideal personality profile that embodies excellent leadership. As you will see, one becomes a masterful, resilient leader through a combination of nature and nurture: a set of inherent “gifts” from one’s family of origin, and a number of life experiences that one brings to a very intentional project of growth and development. By helping leaders become more aware of emotional process in themselves and in others, Resilient Leadership training shows how to be present to those we lead in much more powerful ways. As our understanding and practice of the Resilient Leadership model deepens, we grow steadily stronger and more effective as leaders, whether in a home and family setting, or within the network of professional relationships that comprise the organization in which we work.

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